OK, here we go again. Cell phones. But this time it’s texting, not talking, that is pushing my buttons.
Please, don’t take this as a personal criticism nor a judgment on all moms, all over, all the time (and I do mean you, Tamara.) I am addressing the effects of texting on your kids as I see it. I will, however, point out that I have over 100 years of parenting experience (How old is that lady? you ask. I am referring to the total ages of my children.)
The other day 3-year-old Aaron and I were in our weekly art class together. At the beginning of the semester, the teacher had specifically, and reasonably, asked the grown-ups not to bring hot coffee or to use their phones. Everyone seemed fine with that–all 10 nannies and two grandmothers. I briefly wondered why she felt she had to point out the obvious potential danger of the first and the clear distraction of the second. After all, this was a class specifically geared to young children and their caregivers to engage in together. The grown-ups sit behind the kids to offer encouragement and guidance.
This past week, we had two moms with us. The grown-ups had helped tape down the paper and set up supplies and were watching the kids dip the pipettes and brushes in the paint to make their designs as we made sure the inky liquid wouldn’t spill and the kids would share.
I looked up. Both mothers were texting furiously.
The “substitute” grandfather next to me was kvelling over his granddaughter. The nannies were all watching their charges. I had one eye on Aaron and one on the texting mothers.
The teacher saw one miscreant and just looked at her. And looked at her. The mom didn’t raise her eyes to the teacher, to the painting, or to her daughter.
And the teacher looked at her. By that time, I had one eye on the teacher and one on the mom.
Finally, the mom looked up. The teacher sadly shook her head and mouthed the words, “Put it away.” The mom did. So did the other mom across the room who had not yet been caught.
What are these people thinking? There is no way that this is the only time these moms are texting in the presence of their kids. Moms today are, as they always were, very, very busy. These two particular moms have new babies at home. Why not make this 1 ½ hours just about you and your older child? Why not let your kid know that, for this time at least, you are all hers and hers alone? What message does texting send to the child during class? I’ll tell you. It says, “Even though I came to class with you, and I like coming with you, and I like watching you color, there is still something more important that I have to do right now. You are not the most important person to me during ‘your time.’ The guy at the other end of this text is.” If the kid were older, she’d know enough to be insulted. But still I believe she is processing the non-verbal message in a way not conducive to healthy development. Nor to a good mother-child relationship.
In my opinion, each child in a family deserves undivided attention on a regular basis, regardless of one’s other commitments and interests. Bedtime is a good time for that–some snuggly alone time after a book. But if you are already carving out time to take a class together, do it together. Unless there’s an emergency, which can be ruled out by a discrete look at a vibrating cell phone, those phones, whether for talking or texting should be taboo during the “special” times you have with your child.
The phone didn’t ring and I didn’t have to endure loud conversations as I do with cell phones on the street, the bus, the movies, the classes I take, and the ones I teach. The texting doesn’t directly affect me.
But it does affect my world by making one little kid at a time feel diminished. By her own mother.